“The future belongs to a balance of knowledge and creativity: we are going to need creative CEOs, electricians, secretaries, teachers and entrepreneurs to ensure that the planet thrives.”
In 2017, the Curro Arts Superhero (CAS) initiative was started. It is an arts platform for any learner in the Curro group, between grades 4 and 12. Beyond making room for traditional categories like singing, acting and instrumentalism, it also creates opportunities for learners who wish to vlog or work in other social media areas, and for those who want to create short films or music videos.
Cliffordene Norton interviews Hennie van Greunen, head of Curro Create, who is working to keep the creative arts flame alight among their learners this year with an online learning strategy after the Eisteddfods have been cancelled around the country.
Hennie, what is the inspiration behind the CAS initiative?
Having worked with young people for the best part of three decades, Pedro Kruger and I have seen first-hand how theatre benefits young people. The idea of Curro Create and CAS is not to create new artists, but rather to access the gifts that come with the creative arts, for these learners.
The future belongs to a balance of knowledge and creativity: we are going to need creative CEOs, electricians, secretaries, teachers and entrepreneurs to ensure that the planet thrives. CAS, one of our big annual projects, makes room for any creative activity that may be practised by our learners.
Beyond the disciplines of acting, singing, dancing and fine art, we also create space for filmmaking, social media, writing and gaming. If a learner practises an activity that is not covered by any of our current categories, we will make a space for that activity.
“Creativity has flourished in times of change, and we expect that to hold true in these times as well.”
CAS started with 1 500 entries in 2018, then had 6 000 in 2019, and this year, over 7 000 entries were received. What would you say is the key to your success?
There are a few factors:
- Learners have an innate need to create, to play, and in this way to make sense of their world. CAS supplies an outlet for that need.
- We focus intently on mentorship as opposed to judging. We want to witness the improvement in the learners’ work; and here, practical, comprehensive guidance is crucial.
- Our mentor-adjudicators are all professional artists: they make their living from the discipline that they are mentoring. They range from singer Sarah Theron to photographer Robert Hamblin, theatre maker Mahlatsi Mokgonyana and artist Lientjie Wessels.
- CAS is guided by one principle: what is good for the creative child. From there, we adapt and refine our structures every year in order to bolster opportunities for the creative learners.
Due to the current coronavirus crisis, the CAS (Curro Arts Superhero) management has decided to take the initiative online – why did you decide to do this?
If creativity is our thing, we can certainly think of an innovative way in which we can ensure that our learners can still flex their creative muscles. Cancelling CAS was never an option, and again, we are open to moulding and adapting our online process as new challenges come our way. Traditionally, creativity has flourished in times of change, and we expect that to hold true in these times as well.
This is quite a new concept – how will it work practically?
The learners will self-tape their entries, and upload those videos to the cloud. Once the entries are there, our admin staff will distribute the entries to our mentor-adjudicators, who will watch the recordings as many times as they need to, and then complete an online mentor-adjudication sheet which will be sent to the learner. At the same time, our certificates will be printed and mailed to the schools for distribution.
The two national Kryptonite Concerts are usually where learners, who achieve 95% or more, get the chance to perform on a professional platform. Will the 2020 concerts be held online?
Most probably – we will have one national KrypCon this year, whereby our learners will be able to speak to the mentors in order to polish their work. We will then record them professionally for a full KrypCon on our Curro Create YouTube page. Again, this brings new, innovative ways of running the KrypCon: we’ll be able to curate our fine arts Kryptonite winners, as well as our writing outliers, filmmakers and social media gurus. So, this year’s KrypCon will, in a way, be more enveloping than our past KrypCons.
These are difficult times. What are the benefits for students who participate in the arts?
Any stressful time of change comes with gifts. These divergent experiences in our lives knock us all off-centre, and for creativity, off-centre is a very good place to be. We expect especially our fine arts and writing learners to engage actively with the pandemic with their daily situations. One of the great lessons of creative thought is the realisation that the well-trodden road is not the only road. If enough people bash their way through the undergrowth, a new road is forged, one which takes us to familiar destinations along excitingly unfamiliar routes.
At this year’s Woordfees, Curro Create staged the phenomenally successful From Broadway to Bird Street. What do you hope to achieve from the rest of 2020?
We are in the middle of editing the Broadway concert in order to share it with the world, so do check in with our social media platforms. The rest of the year rests on accessing the comfort and joy that come with creating something that, just a while ago, did not exist. We may not be able to affect the science and the awfulness of the COVID-19 virus directly, but we can create an entire universe around it and our experiences of it. The world is in flux. And this is where creativity lives.